Puerto Rican nationalists deny links to Cuba
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Puerto Rican nationalists on Monday
angrily rejected a report that said Cuba directed the island's guerrilla groups,
suggesting instead that the revelations were timed to brand them as terrorists.
"It doesn't surprise me that this comes out now," said Elizam Escobar,
New York City artist who was among 11 Puerto Rican nationalists freed in
September under a much-criticized clemency by President Clinton. "It's a
desperate effort by politicians and law enforcement agencies to criminalize
the independence movement."
The Hartford Courant said Sunday that the freed nationalists were members
of two groups created in consultation with Cuban intelligence agents. The
groups bombed more than 120 U.S. targets with Cuban support since the
1970s, the newspaper said.
Those released were members of the U.S.-based FALN, the Spanish
acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation, and Los Macheteros, a
Puerto Rican-based clandestine group whose name means "The Cane
"Numerous court-authorized interceptions of conversations ... have
determined that the Cubans support and direct the Macheteros at a firsthand
level," the Courant quoted a 1980s FBI memo as saying.
The Courant said its FBI files came from an investigation of the Macheteros'
1983 robbery of $7.2 million from a Wells Fargo armored truck in West
Hartford, Connecticut -- at the time, the biggest-ever U.S. robbery.
But Jorge Farinacci, a San Juan lawyer who served three years' jail for
conspiracy in the robbery, denied allegations of a Cuban link.
"I can assure you that there was never any phone call that I knew of which
could identify or conspiratorially link the Cuban revolution to Los
Macheteros organization," he said. "If there had been one, I would have
known about it."
Cuba received a third of the stolen money, the newspaper reported. Only
$80,000 was ever recovered.
In a new book, former Cuban espionage agent and defector Jorge Masetti
says he was involved in shipping $4 million of the Wells Fargo money to
Havana inside a diplomatic pouch from the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City.
Masetti's book, "El Furor y El Delirio" ("The Fury and The Delirium"),
Cuban agents loaned the Macheteros $50,000 for "an operation" in the
United States before the robbery.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., which acts as Cuba's
Embassy, told the Courant its information was "more science fiction than
In Puerto Rico, nationalists said their links to Cuba were confined to
support for Puerto Rico's independence from the United States -- support
that predated Fidel Castro's 1959 communist revolution.
Norman Ramirez Talavera, who served time for his role in the Wells Fargo
robbery, asked why the FBI hadn't used its Cuba information against him
and others at trial.
"This article is trying to say that the actions of a patriotic Puerto Rican
organization were planned in Cuba, which is totally false," Talavera said.